By Kasey Short
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, it is important to remember that middle school students today were not alive in that year, and their connections to and knowledge about the events of 9/11 vary significantly.
Some students’ families are personally impacted by the tragedy and others may know very little about it.
Twenty years later, it is essential to honor and remember the lives that were lost and the heroes that came together to help. It is also important to acknowledge the resulting Islamophobia and anger toward Muslim and Arab Americans, and to examine the legacy and impact on individuals, communities, culture, national policies, and global politics.
I find that sharing my own memories of that day and encouraging students to ask their parents about their memories helps students make connections, illustrates that it is more recent than it might seem to them, and serves as a starting point before diving into other resources.
There are many free online resources and documents designed to help teachers effectively teach about 9/11. There are also recently published novels written for middle grades students that showcase the tragedy and its continued impact through the eyes of adolescent characters.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum website has a multitude of resources designed for teachers to use in their classrooms. The links below are some that I found most useful for middle school.
This year the Memorial is offering a free webinar for students and teachers to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The program will be available on-demand beginning on September 10 and webinar registration is now open.
Other Memorial resources include:
Virtual School Programs – These programs include opportunities to take virtual field trips and for students to ask experts questions about 9/11.
Lesson Plans – The lesson plans are organized by grade level and topic. There are multiple lesson plans for grades 6-12 and one lesson designed for students in grades 3-5.
Digital Exhibitions – There are multiple exhibitions that include primary sources, art, stories, and more.
Talking to Children about Terrorism – This is an excellent resource for teachers to read before discussing terrorism with students and provides practical tips for approaching the difficult and complex topic with children.
Scholastic Collection: Understanding September 11 – Scholastic provides lesson plans, videos and discussion guides, first-person accounts, and background information about the events of September 11, 2001, and its continued impact. It also includes articles that provide information about how to discuss trauma and violence with children.
The Library of Congress
Library of Congress September 11, 2001 Documentary Project – This collection includes diverse voices about the events of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath. The documents include audio, video, graphics, and written accounts from hundreds of different people recounting their varied 9/11 experience.
Learning for Justice
“Debunking Stereotypes About Muslims and Islam” – This lesson plan helps counter negative stereotypes about Muslims and Islam.
“Bringing 9/11 in the Classroom – Useful Lessons” – This article includes many resources and encourages teaching religious tolerance as part of teaching about September 11, 2001.
9/11 Resources – AmeriCorps provides ideas for service learning and volunteering to honor and remember both the heroes and the victims of 9/11.
The book alternates between two perspectives and timelines. Brandon is a child inside the World Trade Center when the airplane hits the tower on September 11, 2001. Reshmia, who is living in Afghanistan and on September 11, 2019, sees her life change after a battle takes place in her village and she helps to save a U.S. soldier.
Their stories collide and encourage the reader to consider multiple perspectives, examine connections between our past and our present, and gain insight in 9/11.
Jewell Parker Rhodes’ novel, Towers Falling, illustrates the impact of 9/11 on a group of 5th grade students, 15 years after the attack. The story reveals to readers how even though the characters were not alive in 2001, the tragic events of that day impact their lives. Rhodes also shows the physical and mental impact on those who were in the Twin Towers during the attack and the impact on Muslim Americans, and leads readers to consider what it means to be American.
In nine, ten: A September 11 Story, Nora Raleigh Baskin skillfully weaves together the stories of four middle school students living in different parts of the country and their lives during the days leading up to September 11, 2001.
Baskin shows how the tragedy of 9/11 impacted the lives of four very different kids and helps readers to understand the significance and magnitude of that day.
Yusuf is a Muslim who lives in a small town in Texas and loves robotics. As his town approaches their own memorial events for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Yusuf personally experiences Islamophobia as he receives hate notes in his locker and sees its impact on his community as people begin protesting the building of a new mosque. The story shows how prejudice, intolerance, and hate towards Muslims impacts a community two decades after after 9/11.
For more September 11 teaching resources visit MiddleWeb’s September 11: Teaching Tragedy.
Kasey Short (@shortisweet3) loves to share ideas from her classroom and writes frequently for MiddleWeb. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is currently the Director of Studies at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School and an eighth grade English Teacher.